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Schalcken the Painter (1979)
I remember seeing this on BBC2 one Christmas when I was 17 (1980 or so) and I think it may have been shown again a year or two later. It was a fantastic horror/ghost story with emphasis on atmosphere and suspense. Very dark, much like the real Schalken's paintings.There is a wonderful air of mystery about the film - and it's creepy as hell. To the best of my knowledge, it hasn't been shown since, although some of the other comments suggest it was shown in 1989. Maybe now that we have BBC3 and 4, they will get around to showing this. It happened with the M.R. James stuff (and Dickens' The Signalman) from the early 70's this past (04) Christmas, so why not this? Highly recommended.
The Last Train (1999)
Good and Bad
A good premise is let down by some occasional dodgy writing, but maybe that's to be expected with 6 50 minute episodes to fill. The "diary" of the little girl sounds very cheesy to my ears and some of the characters behaviour (the guy going back to his office, the black guy going to a lock up to get a £400 suit) is downright stupid. Take your bloody ties off for god's sake. Some of the acting is a bit dodgy too, now and again. But it has to be applauded for attempting something this ambitious and is certainly watchable. It just could have been so much better with a little more time and money - but couldn't everything? I've given it 6 out of ten.
Nobody's Fool (1994)
A wonderful cast of characters
I remember seeing this film when it first came out in 1994 and I loved it immediately. I watched it again, on tape, a couple of years later and watched it recently on DVD. I still feel the same way about it.The characters are all interesting, even the ones with only a few lines, and utterly believable. The way they interact with each other in the various environments,(the bar, the diner, etc, )you can't help but think they all seem to know each other, that they belong there. This is an indication of just how good the acting is and the production as a whole. The snowy setting, Howard Shore's music and Robert Benton's quiet (but very sharp) direction and script all add to the warm atmosphere of the film, and it is one I shall revisit again and again.
Donnie Darko (2001)
This is without a doubt one of the most interesting, thought provoking and accomplished movies I have ever seen. It is the only film I have ever watched at the cinema that I wanted to walk straight back in and watch again. (I couldn't because I had work to do: I went back the following day.)Utterly beguiling, who cares if doesn't quite make sense? It's not supposed to. You are meant to be left pondering the mysteries of life the universe and everything. The atmosphere, characters, acting, writing, music, directing...it's all impeccable. It is going to be very difficult indeed for Richard Kelly to improve or equal this, but whatever he comes up with I'm sure it will be of interest.
the mystery of the missing film
I only found out recently that the film was heavily cut. Two whole missing sections - The Curious Case of the Upside Down Room and The Case of The Naked Honeymooners never made it to the theatrical release, as well as a couple of other small sections. Where the hell are they? In these days of extended editions, DVD extras, etc, this would be a perfect chance to show Billy's film as he had intended. Touch of Evil was re-cut to Welles original specification recently, so it is possible - providing you still have access to the material. Even if it is too long - a reported 3 hours and twenty minutes - I'd like the chance to make my own mind up.
The film itself is still of interest. Performances are good, it is atmospheric, both visually and musically and the humour not too out of place. The homosexual/misogyny angle is of particular interest and one of the main reasons why Billy set out to try and make a Sherlock Holmes picture in the first place. Many of Billy's films carry these themes, of course, but Holmes mysterious quality leant itself to this interpretation. And so what? He may be in the closet, but he still falls for Gabrielle Valadon. And the end...very touching, beautifully handled.
Random Harvest (1942)
Random Harvest is a wonderful romantic drama, directed with great skill by Mervyn Le Roy, from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The story has WW1 amnesiac Ronald Coleman finding true love with music hall girl Greer Garson - only to lose it when his memory returns. The rest of the movie is about how they get back together and is surprisingly bittersweet until the requisite Happy Ending. Even if the story is far fetched, so what? The two leads are on top form and the whole thing is done with such style that it's hard not to be swept along with it. Top quality.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The sheer scope of this film is amazing - nothing less than the Destiny of Man. To some it is slow, pretentious and boring - but to me it is hypnotic; the visuals are ravishing, the music sublime and the sheer breadth of Kubrick's vision is awe inspiring. Seen in the context of the 1960's, it is miraculous. I have yet to see a science fiction film as intelligent or ambitious as this. Nor am I likely to, not in this day and age. It is unique.
At Long Last
Amazed to discover this has been released by the BFI, - for a rather hefty £20. I've been intrigued by this, not least by the comments on IMDb. I thought this was quite different from the story by M.R.James, Jonathan Miller characterising the Professor as the typical, socially inadequate, bumbling Academic, someone who has obviously spent too much time alone in his Ivory Tower. He really is quite funny at times (the breakfast scenes in particular I found very amusing) - and quite annoying. Make no mistake, this is first and foremost a character study and Michael Hordern is quite brilliant as Professor Parkins. The story or supernatural element is very low key, so much so that we are left with the distinct impression that it could all have taken place in the Professors' increasingly distracted mind. That said, the rustling of the sheets is still creepy. The location is excellent and suitably chilly, the lack of music accentuating the visuals. The ending was perhaps too abrupt for my liking but effective nonetheless and it is certainly worth seeking out for Hordern's performance alone. There are some excellent sleeve notes by Kim Newman, too.